Health Care Perspective
The Patient Protection and Affordability Act, aimed at covering all Americans by 2014, has many uncertain and controversial pieces, leaving people to wonder about their health care.The main thrust behind the legislation is to try and get all Americans covered by some form of medical insurance; either under a federal program, a state-run system or through private insurance. Other parts of this measure include reducing out of pocket expenses. There will also be changes to how health care services are paid for by both governmental and private insurance. Changes in Colorado health care are not new. Former Gov. Bill Ritter began initiating changes in the state’s Medicare system back in 2008. Many of those changes were aimed at increasing access to insurance coverage for Colorado’s working poor. The most recent Colorado Health Institute estimates indicate there are about 3,300 people in Grand County who do not have health insurance. While many of these individuals are lower income, most are members of the working class who don’t receive health care benefits through their employer. Many are self-employed or own small businesses. Under the new system, all 3,300 would be mandated to have insurance and would be eligible under either Medicaid or a state-sponsored exchange.Various programs are currently aimed at helping cover the uninsured who can’t afford to pay for health care on their own. Some of these programs include Medicaid, the Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP), the Grand Country Rural Health Network’s ACHES & PAINS programs, and charity care offered by local providers. To a great extent, many of these government-sponsored programs have reached their capacity. While some local tax dollars are being used to help defray the cost of caring for the uninsured, the demand for health services within the county far exceed the capacity to provide coverage. It is for this reason that many have called for reform to our current health care system. Potentially the biggest impact to Grand County may come in the form of additional payroll taxes that will be aimed at employers who do not offer health insurance as part of their compensation plan. Since roughly 95 percent of Grand County is made up of small businesses, and small businesses generally have not been able to afford health care benefits, these new taxes will likely have a significant impact on the viability of many businesses within the county. However, since Colorado is one of over 20 states suing the federal government over the federal health care act, the actual impact of this legislation may not be fully known for some time.Ultimately, the new health care legislation (passed in March 2010, to be fully enacted by 2018) will have both positive and negative impacts on our county in the coming years. Whether the benefits will outweigh the costs has yet to be determined. Past reformsIn 1965 the federal government introduced the Medicare and Medicaid programs under the Social Security Benefit Act, to help provide medical coverage for senior citizens, the disabled, and those experiencing financial hardships. About every 10 years or so since then, health care and how it is funded, have undergone some type of major reform: 1980, 1988, 1997, 2003, and 2010.
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